Plan to hold Turkana festival amid drought faces resistance

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Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok second (left) and Tharaka Nithi counterpart Muthomi Njuki (third right) join dancers from Tharaka-Nithi during the opening of the fourth edition of the Turkana Tourism and Cultural Festival on April 19, 2018.

Some residents and political leaders in the county have questioned plans to hold the Turkana Tourism and Cultural Festival at a cost of Sh20 million in the midst of a drought.

Loima MP Jeremiah Lomorukai took issue with the plan to hold the celebrations christened Tobong’u Lore and spend that much money when thousands of locals still lack sufficient water and food.

Mr Lomorukai appealed to Governor Josphat Nanok’s administration to redirect the funds towards procurement of more relief food and supply of water to affected locals.

“If villages near the venue of Tobong’u Lore celebrations don’t have water then the suffering in remote areas is worse,” the legislator said on Sunday. He noted that lack of water, especially in his area, had forced him to spend Constituency Development Fund cash to sink 23 boreholes, which is a devolved function.

“The event was also being planned to swindle public funds for the political interests of the United Democratic Alliance,” Mr Lomorukai alleged.

He said residents and leaders are ready to seek a court order to stop the festival and have the funds directed towards community-sensitive activities.

“Other plans are to block the road leading to the venue of the event through peaceful demonstrations at Turkwel bridge so that no visitors access pass or alternatively, occupy all seats at the pavilions until our demands are met,” Mr Lomorukai revealed.

Great importance

However, top county government officials led by County Secretary Peter Eripete expressed optimism that the event will go on as it is of great importance to the locals despite the opposition.

“We have so many problems as a county that are known, but that should not prevent us from celebrating our culture with neighbouring communities to boost peace and open up business opportunities,” Mr Eripete said.

He explained that the festival is a platform that the Turkana community uses to showcase its rich culture, which resonates with neighbouring communities from Uganda (Tepeth, Matheniko and Karamojong), South Sudan (Toposa), Ethiopia (Merille), and the Pokot and Samburu to cement peaceful coexistence.

He added that through the annual festival, which is now in its sixth year, and various peacebuilding missions, they have largely achieved peace.

“Most of the communities we border share a common culture, language and a way of life and we will bank on the festival to preach peace that will encourage cross border trade. This is already bearing fruit as most cereals, vegetables and fruits are coming from Uganda through Moroto after communities embraced peace,” Mr Eripete said.

He noted that with the ongoing rehabilitation of the road from Lochwaang’ikamatak to Nakodok at the border of Kenya and South Sudan, there will be improved transport and business activities if the communities embrace peace.

 Drought

County Public Communication and Media Relations Director John Emeripus noted that as culture is celebrated, important traditions are learnt and passed on to the younger generation.

Mr Emeripus also noted that Turkana, being among 12 counties facing drought, rolled out drought response measures long before the festival was planned and shall continue to undertake the same until rains fall.

“Locally, there will be a boom in the hospitality, trade and tourism industry because of the event, something that can’t be wished away by flimsy reasons,” he said.

County Infrastructure, Transport and Public Works Chief Officer Rosemary Nchinyei said operations are in top gear with all departments participating.

“For my department, I am ensuring that the infrastructural part is done by grading and compacting access roads leading to the centre and within. We are also working on the pavilions and parking lots,” she said.

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